CON­STRAINT BREEDS CRE­ATIV­ITY

Women's Health (UK) - - STRONG MIND -

The dis­com­fort: What do Steven Spiel­berg, the Im­pres­sion­ists and the world-fa­mous ar­chi­tect Frank Gehry have in com­mon? They all re­lied on lack of re­source to make big­ger, bolder and bet­ter de­ci­sions. Monet’s

Wa­ter Lilies would never have been the mas­ter­pieces they are had the Im­pres­sion­ists not lim­ited them­selves to only us­ing cer­tain colours and brush strokes. Jaws wouldn’t be Jaws had it stuck to Spiel­berg’s orig­i­nal plan of us­ing a me­chan­i­cal shark through­out (it broke mid­way through film­ing) in­stead of the murky wa­ter shots and fa­mous two-note theme tune to de­note when a char­ac­ter was toast. As for Frank Gehry, the only time he couldn’t de­sign a build­ing was when he was given carte blanche to do what he wanted. Lack of re­source is un­com­fort­able. But some­times that’s ex­actly what you need to make orig­i­nal break­throughs. It’s called a con­strain­tive mind­set, and it can help you do bril­liant things.

The ev­i­dence: A land­mark study by the Univer­sity of Am­s­ter­dam tested how con­straints af­fect hu­mans cog­ni­tively. Re­searchers asked stu­dents to lis­ten to a se­ries of words and num­bers while un­der­tak­ing a set of chal­leng­ing tasks. The re­sults? The con­straints shifted the

stu­dents’ thought pro­cesses from lo­calised to globalised think­ing. It al­lowed them to take a big-pic­ture as­sess­ment of the sit­u­a­tion, rather than a my­opic one. Trans­la­tion: they started to think dif­fer­ently.

The plan: Set your­self de­lib­er­ate con­straints. Cut the time limit on a task, re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple avail­able to help or limit your­self to us­ing one or two of the re­sources you have at your dis­posal. As un­com­fort­able as it will feel in the be­gin­ning, it may well be the an­swer to kick-start­ing that idea that has stalled.

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